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October 16, 2006

Alcohol based fluxes

Do you know anything about the banning or use of alcohol based fluxes in 2007 or later? I can't seem to find a definite answer on this question.

Rick Cornell

Experts Comments

In general, I have not heard of any federal ban or regulation on such products, but there are many local regulations popping up which are causing problems for companies. For example, you may be refering to the new California Air Resources Board regulations recently promulgated regarding VOCs. These generally limit the VOC content and uses of "chemically formulated products used by household and institutional customers including, but not limited to, detergents, cleaning compounds, polishes, floor finishes, cosmetics, disinfectants, sanitizers, aerosol paints,..." and so on.

While not refering to fluxes in particular, these new regulations [potentially] affect any chemical containing sufficient VOCs to have a detectable aroma, and fluxes certainly come into that category. In addition, Southern California already has very stringent regulations already governing VOC emissions of substances containing more than 25 grams/Liter of VOCs, which also would include VOCs.

If you are in California, or sell these types of products into California, then you definitely have some problems coming up in 2007. The California A.R.B. raised more than $11 million in fines during 2005 against companies selling VOC-laden products illegally in California, and since that is a big portion of their budget they have every reason to continue this enforcement program.

So, as they say on TV, "don't try this at home." Understanding these regulations is a job for an expert. My suggestion would be to contact a local environmental compliance consultant or technical expert and get professional advice.

Mike Jones
Vice President
Micro Care
Mr. Jones is an electronics cleaning and stencil printing specialist. Averaging over one hundred days a year on the road, Mike visits SMT production sites and circuit board repair facilities in every corner of the globe, helping engineers and technicians work through the complex trade-offs today's demanding electronics require.

There has been no mention of a complete ban on alcohol-based flux products to my knowledge.

However, some local governments may have legislation that limits the amount of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that can be emitted before paying a fine. For this reason, many electronics assemblers in California, for example, have converted to VOC-free fluxes to avoid these additional expenses. It is advised to check with your local environmental regulatory organization to see if there are any changes coming to your local area.

Brian Smith
General Manager - Electronic Assembly Americas
DEK International
Mr. Smith has been supporting customers in the electronics assembly industry since 1994. His expertise is focused on solder paste printing and reducing soldering defects. He holds a BS in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Marketing. He has authored several papers in trade magazines and at industry conferences. He is an SMTA Certified Process Engineer.
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